Robert Dudley, Professor

Open (1) How do hummingbirds breathe, drink, and fly at the same time?

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

Hummingbirds, the most diverse group of nectar-feeding vertebrate animals and the tiniest warm-blooded flyers, have evolved unique flying abilities that allow them to feed efficiently on thousands of flowers daily. To support their extreme lifestyles, hummingbirds rely on fast-paced physiological functions. The highest vertebrate metabolic rates ever measured have been recorded from hovering hummingbirds, using a method known as 'feeder-mask based respirometry', which we will use in this project.

To meet the oxygen demands of hovering, the most costly form of locomotion, hummingbird metabolism is supported by efficient air sacs within the avian respiratory system. A vast body of research has addressed trade-offs between ventilation and locomotion in a variety of animals, ranging from insects to humans, but there are no studies on hummingbirds.

Examples of our intended experiments include: 1) Studying how breathing rates and the resulting metabolic rates differ when birds are simultaneously hovering and feeding, hovering only, and feeding only (i.e. while perching); 2) Testing for significant correlations between ventilation and drinking.

Duties and learning outcomes for the Undergraduate Apprentice will be discussed and tailored to each apprentice, but could include laboratory assistance, operating high-speed video and metabolic assessment systems, fieldwork, and digitization (R, Matlab, or ProAnalyst) of video sequences.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Alejandro Rico-Guevara, Post-Doc

Qualifications: Required: Attention to detail, good organization skills, punctuality, enthusiasm, and interest in biomechanics, physiology, and/or comparative morphology. Desired: Completion of introductory biology courses. Applicants are encouraged to submit the application with short statement that includes any background that may be relevant for the position. A current transcript, schedule, and CV may be requested by e-mail.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website: http://ib.berkeley.edu/labs/dudley/
Related website: http://alejorico.com

Open (2) A Global Estimate for Insect Biomass

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

Insects are the most diverse and abundant form of animal life in the terrestrial biosphere, rivalling humans in their global biomass. However, good quantitative estimates for the world's standing mass of insects are missing. This project will involve analysis of the ecological literature to extract data on insect biomass for each of the world's major biomes, followed by algebraic scaling of geographical surface area to obtain a global estimate. This number, in turn, will be compared with existing data sets for human and plant biomass to assess the overall ecological impact of the insects.

Duties for the Undergraduate Apprentice will include downloading and extracting data from numerous scientific papers, compiling spreadsheets for biomass and geographical data, and conducting comparative analyses of the results. Learning outcomes will include increased familiarity with methods of data analysis, learning to write a scientific paper for publication, and increased conversancy with concepts in biogeography, insect diversity, and terrestrial ecology.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Robert Dudley

Qualifications: Required: Completion of introductory biology courses, ability to download and analyze scientific articles using Google Scholar. Desired: Knowledge of entomology and ecology; some GIS skills. Applicants are encouraged to submit their application along with a short statement that includes any background relevant for this position, along with a current transcript and curriculum vitae.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website: https://berkeleyflightlab.org

Closed (3) Biomechanics of Gliding in Arboreal Geckos

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2017 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2017.

Any organism that lives in a tree risks falling to the ground. There are many consequences that an organism might face if this were to happen, such as injury or death upon impact with the ground or dangerous encounters with other organisms. As a result, many arboreal organisms have means to influence their body orientation and trajectory as they fall so as to control their descent and minimize the negative repercussions. This project seeks to understand the biomechanics of controlled aerial descent in arboreal geckos by using high-speed video to record and track the movements of Hemidactylus geckos while gliding. Geckos will undergo a gliding simulation on a vertically-oriented wind tunnel. These organisms lack dedicated airfoils, yet they have substantial control of their fall. Understanding such a system may lead to insights regarding the origin of flight in vertebrates.

Tasks: The apprentice will assist in data collection, filming, and observation of geckos during the experiment as well as digitization of videos post-experiment.

Learning Outcomes: The apprentice will learn how to use high-speed video recording equipment and analysis techniques. The apprentice will also learn about the natural history of Hemidactylus geckos and gain knowledge in the subjects of biomechanics and morphology.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Erik Sathe, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Required: Attention to detail, good organization skills, punctuality, enthusiasm, and interest in comparative morphology or biomechanics. Desired: Completion of introductory biology courses. Applicants are encouraged to submit the application with short statement that includes any background that may be relevant for the position. A current transcript, schedule, and CV may be requested by e-mail.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website: https://berkeleyflightlab.org/members/erik-sathe-3/

Closed (4) Analyzing Variation in Bird Wing Bone

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2017 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2017.

Bones vary in shape and material properties both during an individual’s lifetime and over evolutionary time. While we have a good understanding of how these changes occur in humans, our understanding of how bird bones vary is lacking. This project analyzes how bird bones vary under two locomotor challenges: hovering and migration. In hovering, birds place large loads on the skeleton, so we might expect the bones of hovering birds to change shape as an adaptation to hovering. To address this, we will look at a group of birds who species spend varying amounts of time hovering (sunbirds, Family: Nectariniidae) and use photographs and x-ray scans to identify variations in bone shape among species. In migration, the skeleton is loaded repeatedly, so we might expect migratory bird bone to be stiffer or tougher to sustain many loading cycles. To address this, we will test bones from migratory and non-migratory Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) in repeated loading to look at their material properties.

Duties of the Undergraduate Apprentice will vary depending on student background and interests; opportunities are available for students in the biological and engineering sciences. Duties may include: dissecting bird bones for imaging and analysis, analyzing x-ray scans of bird bones, performing materials tests on bird bones, and performing finite element analyses of bird bones. Apprentices will also assist in data entry, organization of sample databses, and simple preparation of bone samples for storage.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Leeann Louis

Qualifications: Required: Enthusiasm, punctuality, attention to detail, and interest in bone biology and/or general biomechanics. Desired: Ability to work independently, troubleshoot problems. Experience with Matlab, imaging, and materials testing is desired but not required. Applicants are encouraged to submit the application with short statement that includes any background that may be relevant for the position. A current transcript and CV may be requested by e-mail.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: http://berkeleyflightlab.org/members/leeann-louis/